Friday 4 July 2008

Pink Floyd "The Wall" (1979) ('Core' Review #76, Revised Edition 2014)

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Pink Floyd "The Wall" (1979)

Track Listing: In The Flesh?/ The Thin Ice Of Modern Life/ Another Brick In The Wall (part i)/ The Happiest Days Of Our Lives/ Another Brick In The Wall (part ii)/ Mother// Goodbye Blue Sky/ Empty Spaces/ Young Lust/ One Of My Turns/ Don’t Leave Me Now/ Another Brick In The Wall (part iii)/ Goodbye Cruel World// Hey, You/ Is There Anybody Out There?/ Nobody Home/ Vera/ Bring The Boys Back Home/ Comfortably Numb// The Show Must Go On/ In The Flesh/ Run Like Hell/ Waiting For The Worms/ Stop!/ The Trial/ Outside The Wall (UK and US tracklisting)  

"Lights! Roll the sound effects!! Action!!!!!"

"Time to go...*thud* *thud* *thud..."

"You there, in the top hat behind the bike sheds, how can you have any pudding if you don't eat your bones?"

"Is there anybody out there? Seriously - I need a paw, I've locked myself out of my kennel again!"

"I cannot explain, you would not understand - this is not how I am!..."

"On the road you may encounter some cats heading into New York New York..."

"Wanna take a bath?" "Not likely - I'm a dog!"

"Good morning worm, your honour, the crown will plainly show the canine prisoner who now stands before you was caught red handed listening to the Spice Girls and treating them as almost human - this will not do..."

"...I came in?"

It was just a normal day. Well  a normal day up until the part where I went to the shops to pick up a new caramel-flavoured edition bone and the latest by one of my all time favourite bands Pink Floyd. I thought I'd seen it all. Id' navigated the choppy waters of 'Animals', understand more than I thought I could of 'Ummagumma' and had loved my time living with the gnomes and scarecrows and gigolo aunts of Syd Barrett land. But nothing had prepared me for this. 'The Wall' is an album unlike any other. Even that name is stark, uncompromising, final. That album cover, so usually the moment of colour on the darkest of Pink Floyd albums, is just a sea of bricks (good use of the Floyd's training as draughstmen, I thought). The music? Well...I still have nightmares. Even with a half-chance of recovery at the end, this is one of the bleakest albums ever released by anyone, a majestic album where over the course of 81 minutes (annoyingly just 89 seconds longer than the maximum single disc running time) the album's main character Pink descends from egotistical rock star to gibbering wreck. Some of the story is Syd Barrett's, a lot more comes from Roger's own personal experiences (the album was 'formed' when he found himself spitting at a rather rowdy fan at one of the 'Animals' gigs and wondering what had happened to his empathy, protected from 'real' people by a rock star bubble), other parts the flotsam and jetsam of living an un-natural rock and roll life. Pink Floyd has spent most of their career looking for the 'building blocks' of human experience, coming closest with the everyday pressures heard on 'Dark Side Of The Moon' but here the result is even more devastating, an extension of that album's coda of inevitable madness from modern living: an over-clingy mother, an absent father killed in the second world war, a psychopathic teacher, a cold betraying girlfriend, the drugs needlessly prescribed by a thoughtless doctor, the baying crowds who don't care what they see as long as it's a 'celebrity', Pink's own neuroses and violent tendencies, his helplessness when he looks in the mirror and wants to see a 'tough guy' rock star God but instead sees a pale weak fragile human being - even a finale of chanted 'tear down the walls' can't relieve this bleak masterpiece from the feeling that the world is a scary place with even scarier people in it. This album still gives me recurring nightmares, perhaps because Roger Waters so perfectly encapsulates the pressure of being a human being (or a dog - it's hard wearing top hats and appearing in Alan's Album Archives youtube videos you know!) that these nightmarish visions of things that helped Pink shut an extra part of himself away sound like mine too (though he missed out the Spice Girls as one of his 'bricks').

Now, we’ve travelled quite a long way through the list together, you and I, and I’ve come to feel we’ve placed some trust in each other, even if in my case it’s the sort of trust you give to an unstaring blank screen that can’t argue back at you and in your case it’s the sort of trust you give to someone just before you back away slowly. Even though The Wall is one of the very greatest Alan's Album Archives records of them all - and there was no way I was going to leave it out of our original 'core' 1010 albums lists even if it is comparatively well known compared to everything else chosen - it is not an album I listen to too often. The Wall is harrowing, depressing and full of angry despair, sounding like no album before or since and is one of those albums that demands to be heard from beginning to end in order with wrapt attention, rather than half an ear whole you're trying to choose what top hat to wear for work. But there’s no doubting that The Wall is an important album, full of to-the-point songs about the barriers we build to keep ourselves apart from others, the lengths we go to to protect ourselves from harm and the awful human waste of wars that have an impact on society for several generations to come. Even though The Wall is frequently self-indulgent (seriously, that many songs about the war?), even though its dark cynical sneers on the album’s first-half and its mock-Nuremburg Rally set-up on the second cut a bit too close to the bone at times (we know the Floyd are turning Pink into the nastiest thing he can become in Pink Floyd's eyes - a racist - some newcomers enticed by 'Another Brick' weren't so sure it was all acting), The Wall is still a terribly human album. That's right: human. While the images that people take away from this album and it's tie-in film and stage shows tend to be the illustrations of strength portrayed by Gerald Scarfe's cartoons and blow-up dolls (crashing Luftwaffe bombers, marching hammers, children at school being turned into sausages), the real key to understanding this record is how fragile it is to be human - how easily our egos are bruised, how often people let us down, how those promises people make to you that 'it will be better' 'the drugs will help you' and even Vera Lynn's sweet song that 'some day we will meet again' are all a pack of lies designed to make the world work better. Roger has seen the truth for what it is: the constructed parenting, the needless wars, the hopeless schools treated as prisons to stifle individuality and turn every generation into cogs in some big industrial wheel: the only way you can 'escape' is by turning to some sort of art form and even that is a 'trap' because people think you have all the answers by escaping, when by the time enough fame and fortune have filtered through to you you've forgotten what it was you were escaping from. No wonder Pink ends up, comfortably numb, unable to function anymore, cold as a razorblade, tight as a tourniquet, dry as a funeral drum. Not until the end, when his sub-conscious puts him 'on trial' and he resolves to tear down all the walls of his neuroses can he function again - and even after the soothing sounds of life 'Outside The Wall' comes that worrying cry, 'isn't this where I came in?' as the whole shebang starts again. Like many a Pink Floyd concept album, human beings are doomed: this time not because of other people's greed or avarice but because humans are destined to always let one another down and never say what they really think (even by English standards, the Pink Floyd were the most reserved group of the lot - just watch any interview with more than one of them).

The second of Roger Waters’ self confessed 'big three' concept albums (Dark Side and Amused To Death being the others), it's also by far its chief creator’s most personal study of events, touching on the death of Waters’ father in World War Two, the repressive monochrome manner of much of his 1950s childhood and the pressures of rock stardom in the 60s that lead to breakdowns which (notably in former partner Syd Barrett’s case) many of that era’s legends never fully recovered from (by the look of this album, Waters only just escaped with his own sanity intact – and that’s been doubted by more than one source over the years!) Surprisingly, Waters is the only 60s/70s musician I know to have lost a parent in WW2 (strange because nearly all the first wave of 60s stars and a vast majority of artists on this list were born during the ’39 to ’45 war) and even though umpteen concept albums on the impact of Roger’s father’s death in the 1944 Allied invasion of Italy at Anzio means the idea has since lost its edge a little, when this album came out it must have been emotional stuff indeed as the bassist refers to the subject for pretty much the first time (Free Four on 1972’s Obscured By Clouds film soundtrack is the only previous mention). For Waters, everything hopeful about the future of mankind seemed to fall apart after this widespread tragedy, which reminded human beings how cruel and tyrannical their race could be: the parents who lived through the war are pictured as cold, afraid to show emotion to their offspring in case they lose them; the teachers returning from the war don’t believe that man can be educated and ‘civilised’ and aren’t interested in investing for the future after missing such a big chunk of their own past. Even when Roger’s everyman character Pink becomes a rockstar – a life most of his audience probably can’t relate too, which is where for many their ‘belief’ in this album ends – the theme becomes a sympathetic one as in turn Pink’s wife, his manager, his groupies (and, its hinted, Waters’ own band) all conspire to let him down, trying to turn him into someone that - with the weight of his past always on his mind - Pink can’t ever be.

Side one is the 'childhood' side, with Pinks' character scarred by several life-changing experiences he can't compute: the hugeness of the war that claimed his father, the clingingness and over-protectiveness of his mother and the cold harsh regime of his cruel teachers (next Floyd record 'The Final Cut' will further explore just why this 'teacher' - and the millions of ex-army men hired to teach in schools is  the 1950s - is quite so cruel: he wasn't born sadistic, he just lost all faith in the world when his comrades were blown up and never had the life the ungrateful brats he imagines around him will have, a 'post-war dream' that never arrived).The colourful 1960s and 70s come in to replace the monochromatic 50s by side two and this album features even more wild invention and changes in soundscape than most Floyd albums of the period, but people don’t really change their characters that much in Waters’ world and Pink –depressed, suicidal and on drugs his manager has given him to ‘keep him going’ through an important gig – uses his charisma to influence people in his huge audience to turn on each other. Side three alternates between lucidity and denial (very much Syd Barrett's state of mind circa 1968: 'Jugband Blues' would have fitted neatly onto this album), Pink knowing that something is wrong but too afraid to ask for help, side three peaking with the climactic thrill of 'Comfortably Numb'. Side four is where all hell breaks loose, with Pink so used to seeing the dark side of mankind in everyday life that on stage - the only place left where he has any power in his life and even that’s only by becoming what other people want him to be - Pink turns into a monster, exploiting the differences he sees in the fans and attempting to repeat his own minor version of Hitler’s atrocities that have hung over him like some nasty shadow all his life. Thankfully, there’s a last minute happy ending: Pink has just enough humanity left in him to stop himself, becoming his own judge and jury and sentencing himself  to ‘tear down the wall’ of feelings which separate him from the rest of humanity and realise that everybody else is a person just like him and they aren’t all out to ruin his life. Well, some of them. But the ending is still a close call and the horror and bitterness of The Wall is what lingers in the mind - not the peaceful happy ending (at least Pink gets one though: the teacher survives one war only to die in the next in the finale of 'The Final Cut' where world war three really does take place).

Waters’ music was always deeply gloomy, even at its happiest or funniest, and The Wall is a natural progression of both Roger’s gradual takeover of the Floyd sound and his past material on alienation and world wars. The final ‘trigger’ for inspiring The Wall was Waters’ horror at the success of Dark Side Of The Moon and what it did for the Floyd: making them play in bigger and bigger stadiums to perform for more and more people who - in Waters’ eyes at least - cared less and less about the music and more about having a good time while having the chance to boast to your mates about who you’ve just seen in the pub the next day. Over the next five years Waters gradually got so incensed at the fact that his once cult band’s songs about isolation and being apart from the mainstream had become so successful and turned into an excuse for a party that he began to have very mixed feelings about the audiences at his shows. After temporarily losing it and spitting at a front-row fan during the Animals tour of ’77 (legend has it that the fan had brought along his own laserbeam toy and was providing his own stage show to the fans behind by shining it on to the stage, oblivious to the carefully-crafted performance going on in front of him and risking blinding one of the musicians in addition), Waters was so horrified at his lack of humanity that he decided to create the biggest ‘alienation’ stage concept ever for his next tour – and came up with the idea of lining a wall of cardboard bricks across the stage. In many ways the music and story of this album all came out of that one image and when you boil it down, this album is about building a wall across our audio stage, daring us to see how far we’ll cross over Waters’ line of un-comfortableness (the original concept was to have all the show performed behind the wall, with audience and band fully separated throughout, but Waters got talked into watering that concept down).

In amongst The Wall’s huge mega concept critics often forget about the music, but on this double-album the melodies are almost uniformly terrific, with the band mastering genre after genre after genre, veering from cold austerity to heartbreaking warmth in the time it takes David Gilmour to warm his guitar up. People spend so long analysing Roger's lyrics that they forget what a masterful melodicist he could be: the cod-Beach Boys 'Goodbye Blue Sky' and 'The Show Must Go On' (which the Beach Boys were invited to perform but turned down, with ex member Bruce Johnstone taking part alongside some session musicians instead) are two of his loveliest songs, as are the sections of 'The Thin Ice' and 'Mother' before his anger takes over. Roger writes practically the whole album himself, with three co-writes with Gilmour ('Young Lust' 'Comfortably Numb' and 'Run Like Hell') plus one with producer Bob Ezrin ('The Trial', which wouldn't be the same without Ezrin's faux Gilbert and Sullivan operetta patter song additions, half comic half cruel). The Wall is also Waters’ ‘greatest solo album’, dominated by his vision but still faithfully backed up by a slightly bemused Gilmour and Nick Mason, who give as much inventiveness and support as their growing megalomaniac leader will let them (Gilmour’s never anything less than good on any Floyd album, but less heralded is Mason’s cymbal work on this record which is exemplary). Rick Wright, bored with the band and with all of his own material used up on an unloved and under-rated solo LP from the year before, was famously pushed out by Waters during the making of this album, forced to leave the band he'd co-founded and his financial lifeline at the same time (as it turns out Rick was spared a lot of the ongoing Floyd financial problems by officially not being a 'full' member again until 1994). However much Roger put down his contributions as 'zero' and producer Ezrin says he copied Wright’s keyboard style and played it himself, it still sounds mightily like Rick’s instinctive and largely unique playing to me. Even if it isn't, Ezrin is copying a 'sound' that Rick invented and which plays a larger role on this album than anything else including Roger's bass and David's guitar. His sacking by a fellow founding member who had no contractual power to make him go at all seems like a poor reward for nearly 15 years’ hard work; Rick’s sacking is by far the biggest blot on Waters’ much-criticised behaviour in the 1980s and I've always found it ironic that it occurred during a project about bitterness and alienation and was done so shabbily and silently on an album whose entire moral is for people to start talking to each other , dispelling 'the empty spaces where we used to talk' (Neither Wright or Mason were mentioned at all on the album’s original packaging of this album - an accidental oversight rather than a slur, apparently - but are on the re-issue and the CD, added to one of the empty 'bricks' inside the gatefold sleeve).

Even so, there’s no doubting the star of this record: whether coercing, cajoling, shrieking, acting out the parts of Punk, The Teacher, The Judge, even the Girlfriend during the early demos, whether giving us an icy stare or a warm aural hug, singing of vulnerable isolation or partying as the leader of a band of militant misfits, Roger Waters is on terrific form on this album, doing anything the songs demand of him to without going so OTT they become cartoonlike or un-listenable. Anyone who doubts Waters’ musical credentials (fans of the 1990s Floyd often dismiss him as a ‘trainee architect’ with no soul for music) might have a point with Waters’ early occasionally misguided solo albums – but not here. A master of many trades, this is Roger on top form, communicating his complicated visions in easy bite-size pieces that everyone will relate to, even when he’s trying to draw up a wall between us. Never before had one of the Floyd dominated an entire LP, never mind a double album - luckily Roger's drawn himself so many extremes to play that this double album never feels claustrophobic or repetitive (except the parts that are supposed to sound repetitive and claustrophobic!) Gilmour, reduced to occasional vocalist and not at all sure he likes what he's singing on, is still right on the money though: for the first time Waters 'casts' him as a 'foil' whenever he needs a happier, more hopeful voice: that's Dave as the pained narrator of 'Goodbye Blue Sky' and 'The Show Must Go On' commenting on the action, the sudden carrier of hope as patient to Roger's doctor on 'Comfortably Numb', even playing the part of the 'Mother'. Roger may have taken all the most memorable parts for himself, but once again it's where the Floyd work together the most ('Another Brick' with Gilmour's ringing guitar part; 'Comfortably Numb' where the two bounce off each other like never before; the churning guitar-fest 'Run Like Hell') that work the best.
Which is particularly impressive given that the rest of the band weren't at all sure about 'The Wall'. Delivered to the band as a 'fait accompli' along with an early version of Roger's future first solo album 'The Pros and Cons Of Hitch-Hiking', Waters knew that as the most prolific member of an often slow band (with all of the other three having recently released solo albums) the band would have no choice but to accept one of the ideas. Despite being one of the biggest rock bands on the planet, the Floyd's financial organisation was a mess and haemorrhaging money at a bigger rate of knots than The Beatles' Apple a decade before. Along with years of not touring and the  long gaps between records, the band were in danger of going under if they failed to release something in 1979. Most bands would have gone 'small' of course, made an album with as little cost as possible, but that wasn't the Floyd's style: after the comparatively slow-selling 'Animals' (where, publishing royalties wise, there were only five tracks on the album - less than half of most records) 'The Wall' needed to be big. The rest of the band agreed unanimously on 'The Wall', although it was a slightly different beast at first as can be heard on the collection of demos included on the 'Experience' and 'Immersion' box sets of it released at the beginning of 2012 (which fixated more on the worms, briefly mentioned in the album's last quarter, and which was still slightly confused as to which songs belonged to this album and which to the surreal nightmare sequence 'Pros and Cons'). In the end the surprise success of single 'Another Brick In The Wall Part Two' (Pink Floyd's first single in 11 years in Britain and still their only number one - right at the end of the decade, being Christmas number one the last week of 1979 and into the first of 1980) helped 'The Wall' sell like hot-cakes: it remains in the top five selling AAA albums if you go with most statisticians who double the album's sales as they do for every double record (even so it's top ten if you don't). 'The Wall' clearly hit an awful lot of nerves - or perhaps it was just such a bold all-embracing memorable concept that everyone wanted to see it.
For 'The Wall' is much more than a mere album. I must confess that I haven't heard the actual record for quite a time as I prefer the rawer punch of the live show (the Earl's Court gig - well a compilation of two of them actually - being released in its own right in 2001 as the twin CD set 'Is There Anybody Out There?') which is slightly less arch than some of the album and on which the band seem to know what they're doing slightly more. You miss the surroundings and visuals, of course (if only the shows had been filmed complete instead of just the audio), but considering that the Floyd only ever performed this album eight times (with Roger reviving it either solo or with all-star guests a few times since - most memorably at the Berlin Wall) they're on good form throughout. Then of course, there's the film: a mad musical quite unlike any other movie ever made. Bob Geldof 'stars' but barely says a word: most of the film going on inside his head, with Roger and Dave's remixed songs from the album heard as narration over the top (with the twin versions of 'In The Flesh' the only pair of songs Bob actually sings). The film is clearly a compromise between too many cooks (Roger, animator Gerald Scarfe, producer Alan Marshall and director Alan Parker all big personalities trying to shout the loudest) and tried too hard to be 'a big blockbuster' when at heart it's a simple, arty little film that might have looked better made on a shoe-string. That said, 'Pink Floyd: The Wall' (the film's official title) is a powerful film with several memorable sequences: the rows and rows of children in 'the scream' style masks made into sausages, the pet rat that accidentally dies, the marching skinhead extras desperately trying to stay in step (and not quite believing that this isn't a mass nazi rally with the singer from the Boomtown Rats posing as Hitler; well it's no less daft than an arty prog rock album hiring a punk as their central actor), Scarfe's cartoons of diving bombers, fucking flowers and marching hammers: this is a very visual album and while the film is only half what it might have been (it's even bleaker than the album) it makes a good accompaniment. Do get the DVD if you can though: 'Hey You', one of the greatest of this album's highlights, was senselessly cut from the final cut of the film but appears as an 'extra' on the DVD (shockingly the film also cuts 'Comfortably Numb' - during which Geldof turns into a pink spaghetti monster - and 'Run Like Hell' to shreds).

The Wall is a huge project that seemed to be everywhere for much of the 1980s as the worst fears of the album (ignorance, greed and an I'm-alright-Jack mentality) came true (something Roger will address on next album 'The Final Cut'). Like many a record that so specifically speaks about something personal and yet sold in the millions, 'The Wall' is often misjudged by people who feel it is a bombastic account of the world’s problems – and yes, sometimes it does go right over the top when played beginning to end (I get that Pink has a lot of problems but does his wall need to be so...high?) Actually, 'The Wall' isn't bombastic at all, it's so much smaller than that, being about a tiny individual feebly trying to bash against the system and regain his humanity before it makes him do something he regrets that just happens to be dressed up to sound huge. At its heart, though, many of this album's greatest moments ('Hey You' 'Mother' 'Comfortably Numb' and especially 'Nobody Home', a song Roger added at the very last minute specifically to give Pink 'more humanity') are small ones, little slices of despair that bely the huge amount of money spent on this album. One final word of warning: one semi-famous musician admitted that many of her scary, equally dour songs were inspired by buying this record - the first she ever bought - when she was nine or ten. She honestly thought The Wall was an album by The Pink Panther and couldn’t understand why her favourite heliotrope-coloured feline sounded so crotchety and cross, so be careful who you play this album too at an impressionable age, as they too might become a grumpy musician! So if you're one of the few people who haven't heard this record yet then don't be a wall-y,  get yourself some eder-yoo-cay-shun, play this record when there's 'nobody home' and soon you too will be feeling one of your turns coming on and realise that it's all just bricks in your own personal wall.

So, to the songs.[88a] In The Flesh? (note the question mark) was played on tour by Pink Floyd’s ‘surrogate band’, a group of additional musicians dressed in masks to make them look like the real Floyd (whom most of the audience probably didn’t know by sight anyway), only for the real band to walk on stage at the song’s end, asking the screaming audience to think about what they responsible for both? The ‘warm thrill of confusion’ of not knowing what’s going to happen next? Or just being in a concert audience for a popular group with your friends? As for the lyrics, they’re provocative, sneering, nasty, accusing, dismissive and bigoted all at once – and this is the nicer version of the two similar songs on this album! Even as early as track one, the Waters-come-Pink narrator is making the audience out to be brick #1 in his wall of problems, turning the spectacle of rock concerts completely on its head. As loud and nasty as The Floyd ever got, Flesh? ends with the sound of a screaming World War Two bomber whose speaker-denting noise is truly terrifying and is obviously meant to suggest that there’s a flashback coming on (the Floyd genuinely did ‘crash’ a small plane on stage every night incidentally – although by 1987 this had mysteriously turned into a flying bed (don’t ask!!)

[89] The Thin Ice Of Modern Life then takes us back to Pink’s childhood, brick #2, with Gilmour’s lovingly hopeful parent in the first half contrasting greatly with Waters’ icy narrative tones, cynically and despairingly showing that Pink and all the other children of the early 40s seem to be cast adrift in a world that has nothing in store for them. Pink is already ‘out of his depth and out of his mind’ while just a babe in arms (you can hear him coo-ing in his pram, in a terribly un-Waters like sound effect at the opening of this song). This theme of a failed promised utopia and the failure of the ‘post-war dream’ is a common Pink Floyd one. Don’t forget, Labour won a surprise victory after the end of WWII, defeating even war hero Churchill in their promise of a ‘new start’. The reason they got in at all was their promises of employment for all, an NHS system that worked and a new world policy based on peace and trust rather than warfare – Blair’s mob got in through a landslide in Britain in 1997 after promising only a fraction of all this, so its no wonder that when this oft-quoted ‘dream’ failed to materialise that people across the nation started questioning politics en masse, for possibly the first time on such a grand scale (in the UK that is – France and Russia had their political revolutions long before this and the US forever seems to be having a mini-revolution of some sort or another). Modern cynics can look at that post-war promise and go ‘yeah, sure, but Labour had to say that – they wanted to get in right?’ Well, yes, but don’t forget people had put so much into the war effort, spiritually fed on a rationed diet of radio announcement promises and the odd ‘things can only better speech’, that for many in Britain at the time the post-war dream wasn’t a dream, but a demand that had been promised to them and one for which they’d already risked their lives and given a great deal. Don’t forget also that it was precisely this cause of national unrest that led to the rise of Hitler after WWI – and unlike the labour government of the late 1940s, he actually delivered on some of his promises by making his country stronger temporarily (even if he ultimately knocked Germany’s legs out from underneath it in the long run). In this light, Gilmour’s innocently coo-ing mother isn’t so much naïve as resignedly hopeful, convinced that after the life she’s been through things have just got to get better and Waters/Pink’s angry modern riposte isn’t a diatribe against his naïve mother which is how this track first sounds, it’s a diatribe against those who had no right to fool her in the first place. (To be fair to Labour, they didn’t know that 1) all the money they’d put aside for re-building a brave new world was going to end up going back to the Americans who wanted to pay off a loan – one we only just finished paying a small handful of years back, I might add and 2) they probably did genuinely dream of a ‘brave new world’ but hadn’t quite realised what the scale of the War would be and how long its side-effects would last – rationing actually got worse after the war due to food shortages, not better, which is something even a cynic like me would never have predicted)
From babyhood, we move onto school or brick #3 s its known in Roger Waters’ world. [90a] Another Brick In The Wall  is the most well known song here - indeed it’s the only real hit single the Floyd ever had in the post-67 Barrett years - but it’s the lesser-known part 1 that hits the heaviest. His father now dead in the war, just a ‘memory’ and a ‘snapshot in the family album’, the song’s familiar churning riff sounds less like the teacher-baiting anthem we all know and love and more like a scary and relentlessly oppressive nightmare. Education is a terrifying prospect for little Pink, far scarier than the playgrounds made out of bomb shelters and blown up houses we see in the film. This picture of school as some narrow-minded monster created purely to suck the characters and imagination of little kids is all the more heartbreaking because Waters pictures it first as a source of possible survival, a chance to escape the mess of the world outside the classroom and put the world back on its feet once these little kids grow up.

[91] The Happiest Days of Our Lives, with its screaming and seemingly insane head-teachers and its uncontrollable anger on both sides of the blackboard, plus the similar themed Another Brick pt 2 are often attacked by critics who misunderstand it as a snobby privileged rock star’s attack on distant memories of his schooling. Neither of these tracks are attacks on education per se, they’re both attacks on bad education, the schools scattered across the country where the school system falls through the net, un-noticed or quietly ignored by inspectors, ones that really do teach children to think in the same pigeon-holed way so that they can easily fit into ‘the system’ when they graduate (perhaps Waters had an inkling of Tony Blair’s exam-filled school reforms here! – education education education merely equals another brick another brick another brick). The song stands not as some feeble ‘leave me alone’ memory of Waters’ past but as a plea to teachers in the future not to let children become grown-up before their time or they too might turn into pressurised, paranoid adults like Pink. However, if nothing else, The Happiest Days proves that Waters’ schooling wasn’t entirely in vain – no other songwriter could get away with writing an anti-education rant that includes so many multi-syllabled words per line. The heavy-thudding bass riff (rarely has one ever been recorded so well, then or now) is the perfect mirror to the oppression going on in the lyrics, while Mason’s cymbal crashes are – as discussed earlier – electrifying. Really, though, this ‘song’ is just a linking piece leading, with a scream naturally, into…

The spine-tingling riff of [90b] Another Brick In The Wall Part Two, which is a most memorable and unforgettable hook, one which replicates the monotony and oppressiveness of the education system Waters portrays and the sheer hopelessness of trying to fight back against a system so big and well established. It would be easy for this song, one seemingly written deliberately to be commercial, to sound as clichéd and controlled as its subject matter, but no. Waters hands the middle of the song over to Gilmour whose memorable, exploratory guitar solo is one of his best, breaking all the ‘rules’ of the song in its impassioned cry of desperation and ripping through Waters’ cynical words with a heartfelt passion that gives balance to what the song is trying to say. Waters is right to point out how cruel and gloomy everything is – but he needs Gilmour’s human cry from the heart to stop himself becoming the very cold and calculated person he is trying not to be. A deserved hit single, equally good within the context of this album and without, Another Brick is Waters hitting the commercial nail on the head without diluting his message. No mean feat, you have to say, although its effect was still probably lost on most of the people who bought this song for its defiant and ungrammatical singalong chorus (altogether now, ‘we dahhn need nae edyucashunn’…) 

The ‘bricks’ or problems in Pink’s life just keep on coming. Now growing up fast, the boy wants to spread his wings, but his mother – whose only just lived through the blackout/evacuation/don’t-stray-too-far-from-the-bomb-shelters WW2 don’t forget – is too concerned for his safety to allow Pink the freedom he desires. The slow, carefully controlled tune of [92]Mother and the weary, emotionless vocal which is one of Waters’ best combine to show what Pink is up against, with even those who appear to have his best interests at heart stifling him. The presentation of this song is typically clever – most songwriters would have Pink having a teenage rebellion and storming out of the house a la Quadrophenia, but no – Pink is talking to himself here, practising all the things he wants to ask his mother but is too afraid or worried about asking her because he thinks she won’t care or understand. The heartbreaking thing is, we know from the hidden messages in this song that Pink’s mother does care about him – she cares about him so much that she wants to protect him forever – but Pink is too young/ caught up in himself/ too downright stupid to realise this. The key line here is ‘mama won’t let you fly, but she might make you sing’, with Waters telling us that it was bleaks childhoods and cold parental love like this that turned out so many pop stars during the 1960s, each with their own desperation urge to make their mark on love and make it one of peace, not war. One of Waters’ best ballads, the slow even more funeral-paced version of this song in The Wall film is arguably even better than the one on record (its made clear in the film that Pink nearly died as a youngster – another reason his mother won’t let him out of her sight), with Waters backed by an orchestra rather than Gilmour’s surprisingly throwaway and workmanlike solo (usually when Waters sings from the heart like this, Gilmour rises to the challenge—its Roger’s ‘intellectual’ debates that Gilmour can’t generally get to grips with).

[93] Goodbye Blue Sky is next, a short beginning-of-side-two catch-up of Pink’s life so far. Segueing between warm laid-back prettiness and threatening jabbing staccato riffs, the lyrics again return to the theme of how WW2 still casts a long shadow over children growing up in the 1950s. However, following the very different themes and the very different genres used so far, it makes the listener ask ‘what’s the point? We’ve heard all this already’. Listen to this song out of order, however, and its delightful – the peaceful Gilmour oohs that turn into scary hammer horror sound effects, the long long long line about ‘running for shelter’ even after the war had ended and the bombs were no longer falling, the quietly trilling bass lines burblings, even the bird sound effects (back for their third appearance on a Floyd record for crying out loud!) are all pretty special moments in the Floyd canon and sum up well the confusion of Pink’s tiny little world.  

[94] Empty Spaces (which sadly replaces the similar but superior What Shall We Do Now?, as heard in live concert and the film of The Wall) is another rather scary song, with an isolated guitar solo sliding into feedback as Pink reflects on a relationship grown cold. This sudden jump forward to the present day is one of the most puzzling and unsettling parts of this double-album (the original running order for The Wall was decided so late in the day that the timeline is a little confused – so much so that the words are all in the wrong order on the original vinyl lyric sheet) and the hard-to-follow storyline throughout sides two and three are one of the album’s weakest links. However, Waters’ idea of ‘empty spaces’ that need to be filled whenever we lose something has huge connotations for this album, with the emptiness in Pink’s heart turned into cold steel bricks, the ‘empty spaces’ of Britain where houses used to be before the bombings still sapping the morale of the nation long after armistice day and the ‘empty space’ of culture which will soon be filled by questioning music-buyers and filled with pop stars like Pink.

[95] Young Lust is this album’s first minor mistake, a free-for-all celebration of rock star life with Gilmour at his rocking vocal best, but the song is nowhere near as memorable or as moving as the other songs on this album and doesn’t really seem to have a purpose short of telling us that Pink is now a rock legend. Pink’s (confusingly voiced by Gilmour here although its obviously meant to be the same character) false bonhomie is interrupted by another of Gilmour’s guitar solos at their most fierce and angry and also the telephone call Pink makes over the song’s fade out – tired of all the excitement he tries to call his wife and fears that she is up to all the same tricks that he is when she does not answer. However much Waters tries to cover the song up with sound effects, however, this is gloss not substance, adds nothing much to the character and doesn’t even tell the story that clearly (what are we doing back in present day again – or is this Pink’s future?!)

[96] One Of My Turns (or ‘tunes’ as it was hilariously misspelled on the B-side of the Another Brick single – what a strange choice for a flip-side!) is the moment when Pink, well, ‘flips’, turning from a charismatic young star with the whole world at his feet to a deranged madman, one who feels unable to communicate with anyone or even exist outside his hotel room and frustrated that the only people he ever seems to talk properly with any more are one-night-stand groupies who care for his image rather than the real ‘him’. The sudden switch in this song from brooding lazy ballad to piercing freak-out rock is quite frightening the first time you play it, with Pink turning from helpless victim to noisy bully in a matter of seconds, but clever as this is conceptually in cold listening terms it means that the first verse is too quiet to work out what is going on and the second is so loud it blows your speakers and pouts you out of favour with your neighbours for months. When you do hear them, however, these lyrics are Waters at his best, telling us a great deal about the growing frustration and about-to-snap tension of Pink’s confusion and adolescent fury coming to life. Gilmour’s guitar solo is a vast improvement on his last two for this album as well and indeed this is one of the few songs on this album where the Floyd actually sound like a real life band again.

[97] Don’t Leave Me Now finds Pink regretting losing his temper and a long list of his other past mistakes to boot, but not very convincingly it has to be said. Pink can’t understand why his wife and most of his friends have left him over the years, but we do, thanks to Pink’s casual response to a string of misdemeanours he doesn’t think seem to matter very much. The song’s curious and eerie deep breathing effect mixed with a synthesiser don’t make a lot of sense in the album’s story (is this Pink’s sub-consciousness talking while he’s asleep? Or have his anxiety tablets just kicked in and helped his breathing return to normal?), but its still a chilling moment, as is the ending of this song when Pink’s emotion suddenly wells up out of nowhere as he tries to call his frightened groupie back into the room to care for him. However, she’s long gone by this time – and who can blame her?

The song then spirals into a reprise of [90c] Another Brick (part 3 no less) – where a deranged Pink smashes up his hotel room to the accompaniment of his noisy TV and tells us that he actually likes his hyper-active state, because at least he feels ‘alive’ rather than cold-hearted and is no longer confused about his emotional state and how he should behave – indeed, he’s quite plainly furious! By the third repeat this riff is beginning to get a bit wearing, but the fierce way it screams out of its blocks at the start might be one of the best moments of this record as a whole.

Pink then goads himself (and the audience) into believing that we are on our own and that nothing can save us from destruction, not even Pink Floyd records. Pink then contemplates suicide (I told you this wasn’t a happy album!) on [98] Goodbye Cruel World which uses an old Waters favourite – an octave-jumping bass riff repeated over and over to menacing effect, mimicking the hemmed-in inescapable world the narrator now lives in. This is the point in the live show where the last cardboard brick was put into place on stage, blocking out the audience’s view of the band for almost the entire second half of the show and signalling Pink’s last moments as a fully functioning human being. You have to say, though, that this is very much a song written to order, using every cliché under the sun (unusual for the relatively prolific three-concept-albums-before-lunch Waters) and is perhaps mercifully short.

If you have the strength to put on the next record/CD, [99] Hey You starts the third side with another mix of Waters’ cold rantings and Gilmour’s misguided warmth. Pink is now moving through life like an automaton, vaguely aware of people working around and with him, but realises that each of them is only interested in themselves (‘together we stand, divided we fall’). This, it is pointed out, is not a good idea – which seems a bit hypocritical given what Waters was doing to his old band at this point. So much for the concept, then, which is more of the same we’ve already heard on sides one and two. But the song itself - with its wistful bass lines and killer electric guitar runs - is a very very good idea indeed. Moody synthesiser, more bass murmurs, a long-missed traded vocal between Gilmour and Waters and the most fully realised melody after Another Brick, this eerie song suddenly sounds so much more professional than what we’ve just heard and is one of the few Wall songs you could imagine turning up on another Floyd LP. The lyrics are another neat summation of ideas we’ve heard before and the ‘hey, you’ which opens each verse transmogrophises from sympathy to solidarity to scorn and accusation each time we hear it. Above all, this is one of the few times on this record we hear the Floyd working like a real live band (and not a forced one like on Young Lust either), which makes its subject matter about working together if we want to overcome our problems all the more meaningful.

Meanwhile, alone in his hotel room, Pink gazes unseeingly into the telly (hence the sound effects). [100] Is There Anybody Out There? is a typical Floyd alienation song, but with a major difference. The synthesisers recreate Pink’s solitude and ghostly vocals echoing across the sort of electronic landscape that the Floyd made their own in the early 70s, but that’s it – there’s no sudden segues into crashing drums or guitar power-chords, there aren’t even any real lyrics. Yet so fitting and – in a bizarre, backwards way – beautiful is this song that for many it’s the ultimate example of the Floyd using cold, sterile sounds to invoke a feeling of warmth and humanity. Perhaps its no surprise that again redemption (of a sort) is at hand. With a delightful Spanish guitar solo (interestingly not played by Gilmour but by an un-credited session-man even though David is pretty good at this kind of thing), gradually fading into a choral coda, with no lyric other than the title repeated ad infinitum and no real repeated hook-line, there can’t have been many songs constructed like this one. And on this track’s evidence, that’s a shame: Anybody is one of the better songs on the album and it fulfils The Wall’ s bleakly beautiful remit to a tee.

[101] Nobody Home, a last minute addition added to pad out the under-running side three, shows off the other side of Waters’ skills and finds the bassman at his lyrical best. Mixing parts of his own history, various rock and roll myths and memories of old friend Syd Barrett’s decline, Roger pricks Pink’s pompous bubble and reveals the true state this character is in, however much of a ‘god’ he thinks he is at this point. A feeble wreck, with elastic bands instead of shoelaces and a grand piano to lean against the only way the rockstar can stand up, none of the usual audience adulation and keeping up appearances matters to Pink anymore, because when he calls up the one person he loves unquestionably and unconditionally he finds there’s ‘nobody home’, a phrase that sums up Pink’s dilapidated state pretty well too. The last verse, detailing Pink’s ‘urge to fly’ but despair at having ‘nowhere to fly to’ and the accompanying scream of despair from Waters makes it one of the most moving verses in rock history and the rest of the song ain’t bad either. Throughout the song, Pink tries to paint himself as a ‘superhuman’, one with superpowers of observation and one who feels he is ‘above’ and separate to most other people – but the listener knows that actually this is Pink’s fears, his subconscious doubts that his differences make him ‘lower’ or worse off than other human beings. This won’t be the last time an album on the archives list uses this debate, either – it’s a theme of nearly all of Belle and Sebastian’s early work, among others. Ultimately, Waters’ debate about ‘what does it mean to be different’ means this: we can’t judge others by our own criteria, only by theirs – and on that basis, compared to his triumphant past, Pink is in big trouble. Far from being last-minute ‘filler’ material, Nobody Home is the true core of this double-album, one that makes us care again about a character that is becoming gradually more and un-likable and features some of Roger’s career-best lyrics to boot, half comedy, half tragedy, all heartfelt. 

We’re back to the war again for the next two songs, a slight over-fussy ballad about WW2 sweetheart [102] Vera (Lynn) and her too-often broken promise that ‘we’ll meet again’ and a bombastic brass band plea to [103] Bring The Boys Back Home from the front and get them back with their families where they rightfully belong. Remember that post-war dream debate we bored you with earlier? Well here it is again. Vera is a brief minute-long burst of how the war should have ended (hero soldiers coming home to meet their sweethearts unscathed and still in love after five years fighting at the front) instead of how it did (wives had all too often grown used to not having their husbands round and in many cases barely knew the teenage sweethearts they had married weeks or even days before going to the front; the Daily Mail might keep banging on about how high the divorce rate in Britain is now—but its nothing compared to the immediate post-war years when it was at its peak. That only counts for those fortunate enough to return from the war at all of course—but even less acknowledged is that fact that so many soldiers were still stranded from home long after the fighting actually ended, with the usual image of troops travelling back on the same train and greeting their loved ones waiting on the platform a rarity). These two songs are fragments at best, leaving much unsaid – after all, surely having the long war coming to an end is enough of a ‘treat’, no matter how gloomy and dreamlike it all seemed for the young Pink in 1945.

After this rather brief glance back at the past, the rather variable side three ends on an out and out classic.[104] Comfortably Numb is an amazing mix of spot-on commerciality and breathtaking story-telling which has deservedly become one of the Floyd’s most respected and renowned songs. Roger sings the verses in the character of Pink’s manager and doctor who are trying to persuade their comatose victim back on his feet to play a gig and don’t care at all how the star is feeling, only how much money they can make from him before he collapses again (Waters really was injected with something ‘to keep you going through the show’ in the early 70s, despite suffering from a potentially lethal bout of TB according to one old Pink Floyd chestnut). The beginning of this track is steadily growing morose as never before – even for this album - but Pink’s sudden uplifting memories of childhood on the choruses and the ‘fleeting glimpse’ of what his life could have become if the promises made to him and his generation had been kept is powerful stuff, sung by Gilmour with just the right amount of dreamy, unconscious awe. Half angry, half comforting, mainly numb with the confusing thoughts running through his head, this section of music is simply gorgeous; but even as he’s singing of a glorious possible future, Pink knows the revelation won’t last and that he’s become ‘comfortably numb’, sleepwalking his way through life in a prison of his own making where the singer has built so many barriers to protect him from real life that he doesn’t know what reality is anymore. Gilmour’s guitar solo, played in the shows on top of the cardboard wall, is another album highpoint, expressing all the emotion that Pink no longer can. The sudden switches from minor to major keys for the verse-choruses, the switches between narrators and even the brooding rhythmic bass riffs turning into jazzy keyboard licks had all been ideas done to death by the Floyd at this point – and yet never do any of them sound more powerful than on this track, when the stakes are at their highest and Pink is at his all-time lowest. Best of all is when we get to compare the gloom and optimism directly – Gilmour’s solo on the long fade-out is only really his earlier happier solo shifted down from a major to a minor key and yet it sounds so different and powerful here, so drained of energy as it futilely fights its way back into the song where before it sounded so carefree and easy. Sterling stuff, guaranteed to bring a tear to the eye no matter how much you are beginning to hate Pink’s spoiled brat character by this point.

Onto side four and by now it seems there’s no way out for Pink. Pushed onto stage against his will – and against his wall for that matter - because [105] The Show Must Go On (as a choir featuring ex-Beach Boy Bruce Johnston tells us) - Pink confronts his audience, aware of the power he has to corrupt them as they listen to his every word. The sudden switch to innocent harmonies on the choruses is bewildering after the seven minute electric onslaught of Comfortably Numb, which is presumably the effect intended – after all, this sounds melodically very like a harmony-laden early Merseybeat song, the first real musical product that the war babies made (although you could make a case for skiffle—true rock and roll, on the other hand, was started by 1930s and sometimes even 1920s babies) and the first tentative steps towards finding a musical identity separate to everything that came before it. Seeing as the Beatles had broken up long ago, the Floyd tried the next best thing and attempted to book the Beach Boys to sing on this track. By 1980, though, the surfing singers were pretty much dead in the water (despite having just had an album reviewed on this list), which is why part-time member Bruce Johnston took the honours instead (as to the myth about this album damaging the Beach Boys’ ‘sunshiney’ image, just have a read of the last review for LA Light Album and see why at least some of the band were committed their straight-jacketing image by this point).

[88b] In The Flesh now gets one of the most unwelcome and uncalled for reprises of all time (note the missing question mark now that we’re in the present day and this is no longer a flash-forward in the script – Pink really did follow this terrible path when he had a choice). Theoretically this reprise is a promising idea – if the first version is told in flashback, hinting at how things could be changed if Pink’s life took a turn for the better, it makes sense that we get to hear its angry self-indulgent whines again when things don’t. But musically, this is a one-joke song, a chance to hear the Floyd sound rough and ready like every other band of the late 70s and this time around the performance is even worse and the lyrics even more questionable. Throughout, Pink pokes fun at his audience and gets them to rise up against minority groups (plus jokey asides such as ‘someone with spots’ just to make sure the audience at home don’t take things too seriously), abusing power in every way he can. Fair enough, we know why Pink has turned out like this and we know why the pressures to go out and perform when the singer now hates what he’s doing could well see him abuse his power this badly. But would an audience really get up on their feet and join in on this uncharacteristic and downright ugly song when they’ve paid hard-earned money to hear some old favourites from an old friend? And would they really just sit back while their friends and family members get lynched for being accused  of belonging to the wrong race, religion or for wearing the wrong clothes? My low view of humanity occasionally gets as dry and sarcastic as Roger Waters’ does, especially when you live near Skelmersdale, but nothing anybody could do would make me believe that all of humanity, represented by the mix of backgrounds sitting in this audience,  would act like this all in one go. And – looking at the other equality-promoting peace-loving albums on this list - concert-goers would be the last ‘sheep’ like followers to join in with some silly pop star and the last to crack in terms of following the fascism of this track to boot. After all, if the Spice Girls told you to burn your house down, would you do it? (well, with them inside maybe...but that’s another rant for another day).

[106] Run Like Hell makes more sense, being a song that taps into the paranoia and the everyone’s-out-to-get-you-vibe that the Floyd have already mined a few times in their recent past. This classic Floyd tale is virtually a re-write of the wonderfully named near-instrumentals Careful With That Axe, Eugene and One Of These Days I’m Going To Cut You Into Little Pieces, but with added lyrics. Like the latter track, there are two restless guitars competing for attention in our left and right speakers, summing up Pink’s paranoia at this point in his life. Two Roger Waters at their demented best (what a frightening prospect that is!) also turn on the scared victim, accusing him of several actually quite innocuous things and telling him to run for his life before something nasty comes to get him (presumably this is his subconscious talking, so his running is as futile as it sounds). Run Like Hell isn’t exactly easy listening, but its impressive all the same, turning the generally placid and empty genre of disco into something cavernously deep and more frightening than any horror movie. The screeching car sound effects in the second half are some of the last full-blown and properly integrated sound effects to be heard on a Floyd record (the rowing boat on Momentary Reason doesn’t count for instance because there’s no reason whatsoever for it to be there!) and only add to the impending mayhem of the track.

[107] Waiting For The Worms is even scarier if anything, with Pink pushed face-first into his Hitler reincarnated role (which Waters tackles a little too convincingly), quickly organising a rally to round up whatever waifs, strays and outsiders they can find. Some commentators have claimed that Waters is only pretending to be joking on this track  and – given the glee in his voice on this track that’s an easy assumption to make. Yet Waters grew up in a ridiculously progressive household for 1940s standards. His father had been a conscientious objector before dying in the war he tried to disown and his mother was a committed socialist in a period when the cold war was raging and McCarthy was ex-communicating her American equivalents left right and centre, often without reason, frequently without trial. The sentiments of this song actually couldn’t be less like Waters’ view of life if it tried, and yet Waters over-estimates here how much his audience really know about himself and the Floyd. Fans who’ve read books about the band know that this is a joke, albeit a horrifyingly real sounding one, but the general audience who bought this record knew little of Waters’ background and many assumed its sentiments were real (indeed, the film exploited this a little by hiring some genuine SS-loving hooligans for the rally sequence and telling them it was a genuine neo-Nazi rally led by ‘Adolf’ Bob Geldof, who plays the part of Pink in the film. Unbelievably, most of these extras start joining in and beating each other – and cameramen – up, although even more alarming is their hilarious ‘war hammer’ dance which they try to do in proper synchronised Nuremburg Rally-style as if they’re all hard-drilled excelling military soldiers, but fail miserably at doing in synch together). Arguably, Worms goes just that little bit too far over the edge of taste for comfort, whether you know its sentiments are tongue-in-cheek or not.

Thank God the pre-recorded audience of the album see sense before its too late and demands that Pink ‘tear down the wall’ instead. Some part of Pink still agrees with the audience and yells [108] Stop!, the queue for a lovely little piano ballad that seems to be literally unravelling the character, showing how things have got out of hand for the confused star and how the real Pink doesn’t mean any of the things he’s just been saying. Only a verse long, it’s a shame that Waters couldn’t have expanded this song a little – especially given the bassist’s problems finding enough material to pad out the story earlier – as its quite a sweet and promising little song.

Pink then puts himself on [109] 'Trial' in a very Gilbert and Sullivan-esque spoof conversation between Pink’s cruel alter egos. Attacked by the prosecution (his mother, girlfriend, wife and teacher), Pink hasn’t got a hope of offering a defence and indeed seems to have gone monkeynuts mad if the lyrics and sudden oompah-ing brass section is anything to go by. This song tries hard to give us a completely off-the-wall listening experience to reflect the inner turmoil in Pink’s head (a bit too hard, to be honest) and its new musical setting is a logical conclusion given the pot pourri of styles The Wall  has given us up till now. There’s even a number of clever sound effects in this song that do much to add to its epic-ness, from slamming jail doors a la Rolling Stones to shrieking baying crowd members (all played by Waters, naturally) who seem to be out for blood. Yet after 80-odd minutes of difficulties set to music even this epic song seems woefully anti-climatic. Why should Pink so suddenly and so easily decide to tear down the wall around his emotions? The character has wanted to do this since the beginning of the album, but would it really take a chanting audience to make him finally take the plunge (after all, it was an audience member’s shenanigans that gave Roger Waters the idea for a wall in the first place). This song isn’t bad on its own merits and the song shows off Roger’s vocal versatility like never before, but its curiously unsatisfying as a conclusion to this double-record. 

Pink does indeed tear the wall down, accompanied by the sound of crashing stone and a quiet near-instrumental ballad. Now returned to his original status as an ordinary human being, [110] Outside The Wall is just as pessimistic as the rest of the album when you study it closely, but somehow it makes for a fine ending to the set with its elegiac little tune rising out of the wall’s ashes and its band of followers playing along as if they are helping Pink to piece his life back together. It’s hard to tell if Roger really means what he’s saying here or whether he’s just being sarcastic about our doomed-from-birth futures once more (he’s definitely the former on the film and the latter on the concert recording – the album is somewhere between the two extremes). The sound of a children’s choir singing along to the line about ‘after all its not easy banging your heart against some mad buggers’ wall’ was strangely accepted at the time, despite the outcry of the same children singing the comparatively tame ‘we don’t need no education’ on this album’s hit single.

Heavy stuff, then, and not just because its made out of bricks, The Wall is a deluxe concept album challenging us to change our thoughts, actions and opinions and driving us on to put things right in our own lives before we fall into the same traps that Pink does here. Even if the album has to crush you first under the weight of its concept and dourful countenance, that’s a big ask for any album and the fact that The Wall just about pulls it off says much for the talent inside Pink Floyd and especially Roger Waters. Let’s just not even mention that the film paints an even bleaker picture, however – for fans this double-album already contains far too much melancholia for one life-time… it might even bring on those nightmares we talked about!

Now hang on, what's happening?

Everything is going dark again, I can hear the sound of an airplane crashing and...

"All alone or in twos the ones who really love you walk up and down outside the wall burning your Spice Girls collection. Some hand in hand, some doing handstands, the bleeding bones and the artists make their stand"

... "Lights! Roll the sound effects!! Action!!!!!"

"Time to go...*thud* *thud* *thud*..."

...Isn't this where?..."

"Oh no not again...."

A Now Complete List Of Pink Floyd and Related Articles To Read At Alan’s Album Archives:

‘Wish You Were Here’ (1975)

‘Animals’ (1977)

'The Wall' (1980)

'The Final Cut' (1983)

'A Momentary Lapse Of Reason' (1987)

'Amused To Death' (Waters) (1992)

The Best Unreleased Pink Floyd Recordings

Surviving TV Clips 1965-2014

Non-Album Songs 1966-2000

Live/Solo/Compilation Albums Part One 1965-1978

Live/Solo/Compilation Albums Part Two 1980-1989

Live/Solo/Compilation Albums Part Three 1990-2015

Landmark Concerts and Key Cover Versions

Essay: Why Absence Makes The Sales Grow Stronger

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